Features & Interviews

Clean future: A look at new government-funded projects developing zero emission technology

15 June 2023 #Features & Interviews

Last month, government announced £77 million in new funding for projects developing clean transport technologies, from a hydrogen-powered version of the Ford Transit van, to work on battery-powered buses.

The schemes will support more than 4,400 jobs across the UK over the next decade, with funding awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) Collaborative Research and Development programme.

A total of £38.4m of the investment comes from Government, supported by a further £38.7m from the automotive industry.

The latest multi-million-pound boost is designed to help the UK’s automotive industry stay ahead of international competition, while delivering economic growth and the creation of high-quality jobs.


The FCVGEN2.0–Ford project will design and develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Ford Transit van, with the Ford Dagenham engine factory to be re-purposed for initial production of the vehicle.

By bringing the manufacturer, vehicle operator and supply chain businesses together, it aims to establish a business case for the wider rollout of hydrogen light commercial vehicles for E-Transit customers.

Partners include Ocado Retail, BP, Cambustion, Viritech and Cygnet Texkimp, with £8m awarded by government matched by industry to a total £16.3m.

Tim Slatter, Chair of Ford in Britain, said: “Ford believes that the primary application of fuel cells could be in its largest, heaviest CVs to ensure they are emission-free, while satisfying the high daily energy requirements our customers demand.

“We are excited to be exploring new ways to make clean deliveries an option for even our hardest working vans on the road.”

A low-volume test fleet of eight fuel cell Ford E-Transits will run for six-month periods over the three-year project to 2025.

Test fleet data will provide insights into the total cost of owning and operating a large van, with increased range and operating hours to match its diesel-powered equivalent and without the need to charge.

The prototype Ford E-Transits will be fitted with a high-power fuel cell stack, in conjunction with significant hydrogen storage capability, optimised for safety, capacity, cost and weight.

Meanwhile, Viritech will develop hydrogen pressure vessels using its proprietary integrated mounting system which reduces the cost and weight of fitting hydrogen pressure vessels to a vehicle.

Timothy Lyons, CEO of Viritech said: “Believing that fuel cell hydrogen electric vehicles will play a vital role in decarbonising commercial vehicles, and that they will become a vital contributor to sustainable transportation, Viritech is proud to be at the forefront of the development of this critical technology.”


In a £6.4m award by government, matched by industry to a total £12.7m, the new Nextgenzebs–Wrightbus project will produce a new platform for battery and fuel cell electric driven buses. Project partners include Queens University Belfast, Grayson Thermal Systems, Hutchinson Engineering and Translink. While demand is growing for zero emission vehicles, there are currently few options available for heavy multi-axle vehicles like large buses.


The Cavendish–BorgWarner project includes partners Mahle, Cambustion and Hartridge with £4.9m from government, matched by industry, to total £9.8m. It aims to speed up the rollout of hydrogen-burning internal combustion engines, as an alternative to diesel and will also develop new fuel and air management systems, so that existing heavy duty diesel technologies can be repurposed to use hydrogen as fuel.

Zetta–Leyland Trucks

By better use of automation and advanced testing, Leyland Trucks aims to increase productivity and step up its production of battery electric trucks. A ‘digital twin’ of the Leyland production line will be set up, meaning any changes can be run in simulation before being rolled out physically. With project partners including Expert Tooling and HSSMI, government contributed £2.6m to a total of £5.1m.

Hyer Power–Ulemco

This project will develop a hydrogen fuel cell range extender for electric vehicles used for special purposes, such as ambulances, fire engines and street sweepers.

The zero emission range extender will be based on existing, proven technology from the Toyota Mirai, and demonstrate how zero emission vehicles can be used in a wide range of specialised and challenging settings.

With £3.9m from government adding up to a total £7.9 million, partners include Altair Engineering, Emergency One, Technical Services and Oxon Fire & Rescue Services

Amanda Lyne, Managing Director of Ulemco, said: “Hydrogen is essential for viable zero-emission solutions in applications such as emergency response vehicles due to the rapid refuelling that enables the vehicle to be ‘fit-to-go’ and to provide the full flexibility and range required for the job.

“The packaging constraints and the overall energy demand needed for these vehicle drivetrains as well as the onboard equipment, mean that hydrogen solutions are the most cost-productive route to transition to zero-emission fleets.”

Heidi–Bramble Energy

In the collaboration between Heidi and Bramble Energy, £6.3m has been awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £12.7m. University of Bath, Equipmake, and Aeristech are all involved and the project will demonstrate a fuel cell/battery hybrid powertrain on a double-decker bus. It is intended to be cheaper than the equivalents currently available for large vehicles like buses, and will use new electronics and energy recovery technologies.

Bramble Energy says its printed circuit board fuel cell (PCBFC) technology eliminates the requirement for several complex and costly components found in a typical electrochemical stack, which simplifies the supply chain and does not require vast retooling for manufacture.

The fuel cell stacks can be produced in almost any size and arrangement according to the end customer’s needs.

Dr Vidal Bharath, CCO at Bramble Energy said: “Fuel cell technology can deliver a viable net zero solution that lends itself to commercial vehicles where downtime needs to be limited.

“This consortium of partners means that we will be able to deliver a world-leading hybridised powertrain, utilising our innovative low cost PCBFC technology for the bus sector, where there needs to be a viable electrified solution that can deliver on cost and scalability.”

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